I was challenged by some math recently. (No, not grade 5 algebra—I haven’t done that since we discovered that I was the common denominator in my kid’s math failures.) I created a little word problem that focused on the concept of time. It went like this:
There are 52 weeks in the year. If a weekly 45 minute Sunday school class doesn’t meet for 10 weeks in the summer and the average child is absent for 5 Sundays during the school year, how many hours of Sunday school does the average child attend in a year?
Are you ready for the answer? The average child attends 27.75 hours of Sunday school per year. Many kids watch as many hours of TV and play as many hours of computer games per week.
I don’t know how often Sunday or mid-week children’s ministry programs are held at your church, but I would imagine that when you do the math, the results are equally alarming. The numbers tell us two things. First, that although what we do each week to reach kids is incredibly important, we can’t be their only source of religious instruction. Second, since the time we do have with kids is so small, we need to make each minute count. As folks who are passionate about reaching kids we need to do two things: connect with families and connect with kids. Here’s how.
Make the most of the time you have.
- Resolve to read through next week Sunday’s session this Sunday, and invite the Holy Spirit to nudge you during the week with examples and ideas that will make your session come alive.
- Keep your supplies with you by toting everything you need—leader’s guide, CD, colored/white cardstock, printer paper, markers—in one bag. Tip: Use a flyer coupon or wait for a sale to get half price on cardstock at Michaels or other arts and crafts stores.
- Know the story you’re telling.
- Pray for the kids in your group.
- Bring the news that kids share—no matter how big or small—to God in prayer together.
- Build connections that go beyond the walls of your program by inviting guest speakers whenever it’s suggested in the session. Kids will be impacted by the guest’s story and will have connected with another member of God’s family.
- Resist the urge to replace a session by showing a movie or rehearsing for a program.
Be intentional about connecting with families so the learning continues at home.
- Let families in on what you’re learning with a short, simple note on the church bulletin board each week. Something like this will do: There’s an Extreme Makeover happening today in Sunday School. On the way home, ask your child to tell you what happened to Zacchaeus when he realized Jesus loved him.
- Attach a note to the take home papers that you send home each week or month. The note could be a colorful sticky note that says Read Me!!
- Share the music. If your curriculum has links to the music or lyrics, forward them on to families each month so they can download and learn them together.
As someone involved in children’s ministry you may come across great products for families. Set up a display of recommended resources or email a list home every few months. Tip: Post a list on your church website and let parents know when you update it. Create a lending library and invite families to borrow resources when they pick up their kids. Here are some of the things I’m eager to get into the hands of my families:
God Loves Me Storybooks by Pat Nederveld. I wish I’d had these storybooks when I had preschoolers at home! You can purchase the whole set of 52 stories (imagine wrapping up a new Bible story for your child to open every week!) or smaller themed sets. I recommend this to grandparents of preschoolers too!
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Every story in this colorfully illustrated kid’s Bible points kids to Jesus and God’s great redemptive plan. Great for school-age kids.
The Beginner’s Bible. This story Bible is perfect for kids aged 2 to 8. Kids love the illustrations (my own kids called it the “googly eyes Bible”) and the language is perfect for young readers.
The Message by Eugene Peterson. My family has been reading this contemporary version of the Bible around the supper table. The everyday language it uses means that even my teens are reading with expression!
Faith Talk with Children from Vibrant Faith Ministries. Inside a nifty portable case you’ll find a series of one-question cards designed to get families talking about faith.
Your time with kids may be limited but the opportunities God gives you to nurture faith are not. Make the most of every minute this year!